Questionable call saves Steelers’ scoring drive


The best teams make it to the postseason.  Ditto for the best officials.  This weekend, however, the men in black and white are at times playing more like the Bengals, Lions, and/or Falcons.

During Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Broncos, referee Ron Winter’s crew incorrectly determined a lateral pass that was not caught (and thus fumbled) to be a forward pass.  A Broncos defender clearly recovered the loose ball.

Broncos coach John Fox wanted to challenge the ruling on the field, in the hopes that the officials would determine that:  (1) it was a lateral and thus fumble; and (2) possession belongs to the Broncos.  Winter eventually explained that the Broncos opted not to challenge the play, because a successful review would have resulted in the play being over at the point where it hit the ground.

But that’s similar to the situation the league addressed when modifying the replay rules after the Ed Hochuli debacle in 2008, when former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler clearly lost the ball, Hochuli inexplicably deemed it to be a forward pass, the Chargers clearly recovered, but on review possession remained with the Broncos at the spot where the ball hit the ground.

After the 2008 season, the rules changed to allow possession to be given to the defense via replay.

Former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira, who ultimately presided over the Hochuli call and the ensuing adjustment to the replay rules, said via Twitter that possession could not have been given to the Broncos.

We’re trying to get an explanation from Pereira, and we’ll contact the league office for more after this one ends.  Regardless of the manner in which the replay rules apply, Winter and company should have gotten it right in real time.  If they had, the Steelers wouldn’t have finished that drive with a touchdown.

UPDATE 7:58 p.m. ET:  We’ve spoken to Pereira.  Here’s his explanation.

88 responses to “Questionable call saves Steelers’ scoring drive

  1. How many times will the Steelers Outside LB’s get tackled in the backfield before a holding penalty is called? ? ?

    Nothing on a helmet to helmet in the 1st half

    Nothing on a defenseless WR in the 2nd half

    If that were the Steelers those both would be 15 yards

  2. Please explain to me how that backward pass fumble was unreviewable while the fumble in the game last night was reviewable. Seemed to be basically the same play to me: a fumble that was initially ruled as an incomplete pass and blown dead.

    Why don’t the refs just keep the whistles in their pockets on borderline plays like this? They can always huddle up after the play to do their best to get it right, but at least everything remains challengeable then.

  3. There were bad calls both ways. Two that immediately come to mind are the non-call helmet to helmet hit by Denver’s Bruton, and DJ Williams’ play where he destroyed the WR and the ref picked up the penalty flag.

  4. That was ridiculous. Those refs should not blow the whistle until the ball is recovered by someone as an insurance policy. That may have in fact changed this game. The Steelers have been playing with a purpose since, and were able to drive and keep in the game. What should be 30-6 right now is 23-13.

  5. Very classy of Mike Wallace to salute the Denver fans and say “f**k y’all” after that ref-aided TD.

  6. The steelers always get those kind of BS calls. The NFL refs fix things by using the ” we blew the play dead”.

  7. “If ruled backwards, the ball will be dead where it hit the ground and Pittsburgh will keep the ball.”

    Well he knows the rules, but how is that different than a fumble or other lateral that would be ruled down at the spot where the defense recovered it even if the whistle blew?

  8. Good. We’ll take it having been victimized by the same type of stupidity previously this year. It all evens out.

  9. That rule is messed up to begin with (and you really think the ego-maniac Perriera is going to admit he’s wrong?), but the most pathetic part of that play is that the fact that the official was one of the 2 people out of the 65000 that didn’t see that ball as a backwards pass and decided to blow the whistle.

    It wasn’t even close….a yard and a half backwards.

  10. Refs suck and there is Zero accountability for them. If a coach complains the rest of the refs will screw that team forever. Talk about ultimate power.

  11. Thats 2 game changing premature whistles by officials in both the lions/saints & steelers/broncos. One was for a touchdown for the lions & the other would have given the broncos the ball in the redzone. Why do officials continually blow the whistle early?

  12. NBC just says there’s never been a playoff game where there’s never been a kickoff return. That’s the problem with changing the rules every year in the NFL. OF course there hasn’t. They just changed the kick off rules. Just like records from 14 game seasons shouldn’t be broken by guys with 16 games to do it. Should be per game that matters to “adjust” it for how many games were played in different periods.

  13. i think the answer is simple……….refs blew the whistle once the receiver dropped the ball……..yes it was a lateral but the whistle killed the play.

  14. The call was bogus. That’s at least a 10-play swing as Denver would have at least got a field goal.

    The same thing happened in the Saints game last night. Brees got hit. He fumbled. Ref blew the play dead as he thought it was a forward pass. Detroit challenged. Play was reversed and Detroit was awarded the ball as they clearly recovered.

  15. What is the point of differentiating a forward pass from a lateral if the officials can’t tell when either one occurs?

    How many years are we into this and how long have we had replay and these Bozos still can’t get it right?

    It makes you think there is some master plan that none of us are aware of….

    Broncos now 36 yards away from a 50 yard FG attempt, that if good…..

  16. They need to allow the play to be finished before they blow the whistle. That’s what allowed the steelers to keep the ball. The refs need to be trained properly this offseason. I would rather see a game that uses replay too often but gets the call right instead of a game where refs make a judgment call

  17. So much for the 5 articles about tebow time being interrupted. All he does is win. He is clutch, clearly playing much better in the playoffs.

  18. The Bronco uniforms have about the same color blue as the Seahawks, maybe that could explain it.

  19. Shouldn’t have to rely on replay, a pro ref should be able to determine if the ball went forward or backwards! I’m dumbfounded at these braindead refs. It clearly went backwards, why do these goons think it went forwards? Their suppose to be the best.

  20. the play isnt reviewable / changeable BECAUSE the refs blew the whistle.

    end of story. too bad for denver on that one.

    lobby to change the rule.

  21. Well, I bashed the refs earlier, but now Denver has no one to blame but themselves. That McGahee fumble is all on Denver. Way to choke the game away, Willis!

  22. thereisalwaysnextyear says:
    Jan 8, 2012 7:27 PM
    “If ruled backwards, the ball will be dead where it hit the ground and Pittsburgh will keep the ball.”

    Well he knows the rules, but how is that different than a fumble or other lateral that would be ruled down at the spot where the defense recovered it even if the whistle blew?

    Because it’s basically an inadvertant whistle, which kills the ball at the spot…..and Denver had not recovered yet when the whistle blew.

    Now McGahee gives it back….unreal.

  23. I have no rooting interest in this game but the officiating has been straight up awful.

  24. They ought to rename Willis Mcgahee the fumbler.Every Broncos game I’ve watched this year Mcgahee fumbles.

  25. The inadvertent whistle killed the play and it is not reviewable. The NFL refuses to recognize or acknowledge inadvertent whistles and the overpaid CBS commentators don’t understand the rules.

  26. The league needs to tell the officials to not be so quick to blow the whistle on plays where it can affect change of possession. What would be the harm of letting them play, Denver recover the fumble and then blow the whistle and say the pass was incomplete. Denver then would have been able to challenge the play not get screwed.

  27. The refs have been instructed to not blow the whistle on such plays. Clearly an official’s error on a critical play that cost the Broncos some points and maybe a playoff game. The official should be sanctioned accordingly.

  28. They were pretty crappy in the Giants game to. Course the Giants were able to overcome them and the Falcons. But horrible calls (like twice taking a player out at the knees from behind with no call).

  29. In my opinion, a big part of the problem here is that NFL referees are not held nearly accountable enough for their mistakes. The biggest punishment they’ll get is being kept from refereeing in the playoffs…BIG WHOOP.

    Week in and week out there are headlines about missed calls that affect the outcomes of games. HOW HAS THERE NOT BEEN ANYTHING DONE ABOUT THIS? And yet players and coaches are fined for even THINKING about criticizing referees. Even the media and commentators are hesitant to comment, even though we’re all thinking the same thing.

    Let me know when referees can get fined for bad calls like players can get fined for grazing a quarterback’s helmet. Or demotions. Or suspensions. Until then…wtf.

  30. Great game. Broncos D isn’t going to get a stop so Tebow needs to use all of the clock and get a score for them to win. A punt and it’s over.

  31. The refs are old and terrible, that was at least a 10 point turnaround – the Broncos would have been at least 23-6 with more time off the clock. The Broncos have beat the Steelers, but the refs kept them in the game and the McGahee fumble was the capper. Total BS by the refs and the NFL.

  32. uvmcatamounts says:
    Jan 8, 2012 7:25 PM
    Very classy of Mike Wallace to salute the Denver fans and say “f**k y’all” after that ref-aided TD.


    Sick of hearing about Tebow the entire week, and most of the year – so, temper, emotion take over.

  33. They should make the refs available to the media after the game. That bad call enabled Pittsburgh to put points on the board and took points away from Denver. They’ve got a mechanism in place to fix blown calls. Ridiculous.

  34. I had to mute the TV because I would rather shoot myself than keep listening to the announcers drool over Ben even though his ankle doesn’t seem to bother him when he’s sprinting to complain to the refs or running for a first down.

    And why is he wearing different colored shoes other than to draw attention to his fake injury? You’re telling me they couldn’t get matching color shoes? Give me a break.

  35. Steelers getting help from the refs in the playoffs?

    Guess Tebow sold a lot of jerseys, but obviously not enough, huh?

  36. Once again the steelers get the VIP treatment from the officials. Funny how their players, coaches and, fans act all surprised and offended when even a flag is throw! Shows the treatment their used to getting.

  37. Game over for the Bronocs – total BS and the NFL / officials should be fined and ashamed by the way the Broncos have been robbed. This game is fixed as far as the refs can control it

  38. So it’s legal to grab Tebow’s face mask now? I think Goodwll called the officiating crew at halftime and gave them a pep talk. Get Pitt the Win our your FIRED!!

  39. The refs should be made full-time employees, and during the off-season, and pre-season, they should be in training.

  40. I am in now way, shape or form a Tebow fan, but ya have to admit there is something sweet about the Steelers going down to Denver on a PASS play from Tebow after all the smack talk the Steeler fans have talked all week

  41. I’m not a Steelers conspiracy theorist (like so many on this site), but the refs flubbed a number of calls against the Steelers. That pass interference on Taylor where an out of position official threw a flag for example. This was a typical Ron Winters game and nothing more.

  42. Wow Tebow makes for such a better post-game interview than Ben. Nice defense pittsburgh. So much for that highly touted pass D. Tebow torched this secondary.

  43. Lets see, Steelers have more than double the penalty yardage of Denver (including a totally bogus PI on Taylor) and all we hear about it one bad call by the refs = total ref bias and a conspiracy by the NFL to aide the Steelers? That about sums it up.

    Sure they missed a couple of face mask penalties, but they picked up a flag on PF on Denver that probably should have been left a penalty. They also didn’t call a single hold on the Denver O-line. Ridiculous. Holding was prevalent – including the classic shot of Harrison having his jersey pulled over his helmet.

    That being said, unlike the Steeler haters I’m not going to even begin to blame this loss on refs. Steelers outplayed today and Denver deserved to win.

    Bad calls happen every game. Get over it. The call on the backwards passs was EASY to have been missed. It was probably about 1 yard backwards and the ref that blew the whistle didn’t have the angle to see if forward or backward. He saw the ball hit the ground and blew the whistle. Really not much more than that. No conspiracy.

  44. You can’t blame the refs Jodster. They did their part by getting you back in the game when Denver recovered that fumble the refs knowingly blew dead incorrectly. Denver recovers, game over. The NFL did all they could to get the overrated Steelers to the next round. It’s about time someone found a way to beat the ratings manipulation an d give the fans something better than your boring team.

  45. Yeah, that was a bad call. The explanation was complete crap. The refs make sure this was a close game by giving the Steeler’s every possible break.

  46. I agree with several posters that the officiating crew needs to start being held accountable on the calls they get wrong. They’re a lot like meterologists who get the weather forecast wrong so often, yet still keep their jobs.

    Not a fan of the Steelers, Broncos, Saints, or Lions but the refs missed SO many calls in those two games. Don’t they have a Ref School to get training? And why aren’t they accountable to anyone? Sorry, but a letter saying, “oops, our bad, we missed that one”, just doesn’t cut it.

    Personally, I think the League needs to seriously take a look at this issue during the offseason.

  47. myspaceyourface says:Jan 8, 2012 7:21 PM

    How many times will the Steelers Outside LB’s get tackled in the backfield before a holding penalty is called? ? ?

    Nothing on a helmet to helmet in the 1st half

    Nothing on a defenseless WR in the 2nd half

    If that were the Steelers those both would be 15 yards


    What a bunch of loser talk. The Steeler fans at the game were very gracious after a tough loss.

  48. tothefellowshipofthemiserable says:Jan 8, 2012 8:26 PM

    Silence in Pittsburgh !


    You must need a hearing aid.

    I can clearly hear sobbing, excuses, and foolish comments coming from Steeler Nation right now.

    That 80 yard TD pass was a thing of beauty. What a way to stick it to ’em. Break their collective hearts.

    Yep, a thing of beauty…

  49. How come Refs can huddle for a period of time after a play to :get the call right”, but replay challenge cant be used to get it really right. Its ridiculous that some calls and plays are like that. If they are given challenges, let them challenge whatever call they want. Or would that expose just how flawed a lot of the system is?

  50. The referees missed six BLATANT calls that should have gone the Steelers way (I can give you the time of the game and the foul for all of them and they aren’t even close to debatable.) They Missed two that would have gone Denvers way. I’m not concerned. The Broncos got 17 points off of horrendous penalties that should never have been called.

  51. I’m pretty sure the play was dead as soon as they ruled it incomplete regardless if the whistle was blown. You can review if it is a lateral or a pass but you cannot review it and get the recovery when it is ruled an incomplete pass on the field.

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